M.S. Odenwald was intercepted and salvaged by the USS Omaha and Somers November 6, 1941

USS Omaha stops M.S. Odenwald - taken from USS Somers

USS Omaha crew members aboard Odenwald


        The seizure of the MS Odenwald and the internment of her crew is of particular interest to this website because one crewman, Helmut Ruge, was technically the first Prisoner of War taken by U.S. Forces in WWII.  Helmut Ruge was a Kriegsmarine radioman aboard the Graf Spee when that ship was scuttled after the battle of the River Plate.  He escaped from internment crossing the Andes on foot to Chile and then on to Japan where he joined the crew of the Odenwald for the return to Germany.

       During his initial interrogation both U.S. Army and Navy interrogators failed to discover that Helmut Ruge was not a civilian merchant marine officer but in fact was a German Navy sailor or that he was an escaped internee from the crew of the Graf Spee.  Throughout his captivity he was interned with the civilian crews of German merchant ships an not with other German Navy personnel.

       You can read Helmut Ruge's remarkable story at the WWII in the Pacific website at the links below.

  The Story of Helmut Ruge of the Graf Spee on the WWI in the Pacific website
The WWII in the Pacific website homepage



Click the icons to view the associated records

Task Group 3.6 (USS Omaha and Somers) action report
Memorandum from Deputy Provost Marshal General for the Army Deputy Chief of Staff concerning the status of the Odenwald's crew
Memorandum of meeting which took place at the Office of Immigration Authorities by John L. Riheldaffer, Op-16-F-9
Letter from J. Edgar Hoover, Federal Bureau of Investigation to the Director ONI concerning Movement of German Vessels in Chile
Memorandum from Chief, Aliens Division, Provost Marshal General to LCDR Albrecht ONI forwarding report made by G-2, Second Corps Area, regarding Odenwald's crew
Memorandum from John L. Riheldaffer, OP-16-F-9 to The Director ONI concerning the handling of Naval Prisoners of War
Report on the Interrogation of the crew of the M.S. Odenwald
Supplement to the interrogation report of the crew of the Odenwald from the Canadian Navy, Ottawa, Canada